Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
The bodies of slaughtered Parisians were still unburied when our president, the leader of the most powerful country in history, beclowned himself on the world stage. In Turkey Obama gave a speech that surpassed even his long record of narcissistic petulance and juvenile snark. What we are witnessing is a willful destruction of America’s prestige and authority unprecedented in our history. It’s a sad day when the President of the United States makes a milquetoast French socialist like François Hollande sound like George S. Patton.
A jihadist organization, the most prominent of a metastasizing global movement, had just murdered 129 Europeans in the worst attack since the Madrid train-bombings of 2004. But for Obama, this was a “setback.” This tin-eared word choice came from an alleged silver-tongued orator. But lack of oratorical skill is not the cause of his gaffe, but rather Obama’s need to maintain the narrative of success he had peddled for months. Rather than acknowledge the wages of his disastrous foreign policy of appeasement and retreat, he had tried to dismiss ISIS as a “jayvee” team that had been “contained.” Of course, ISIS was spawned by his precipitate withdrawal from Iraq, reliance on “redline” bluster in Syria, and groveling concessions to Iran.
Like the Oakland Raiders’ Al Davis, the Russians and Iranians fight by the code of “just win, baby,” while our president dismisses as rhetoric any talk of “American leadership or America winning,” and sniffed that his critics “think that if I were just more bellicose in expressing what we’re doing, that that would make a difference” and that we need to “make America look tough or make me look tough.” Imagine Churchill taking that tact during the Battle of Britain. Churchill, of course, understood the age-old wisdom that, as Vergil put it, “They have power because they seem to have power,” that in a conflict prestige and morale are more important than material. The French get it–– French jets are blasting ISIS in vengeance, and Hollande swears to fight ISIS “without a respite, without a truce . . . It is not a question of containing but of destroying this organization.”
Walter Russell Mead sums up Obama’s attempts to misdirect the American people from his incompetent foreign policy:
Obama’s own policy decisions—allowing Assad to convert peaceful demonstrations into an increasingly ugly civil war, refusing to declare safe havens and no fly zones—were instrumental in creating the Syrian refugee crisis. This crisis is in large part the direct consequence of President Obama’s decision to stand aside and watch Syria burn. For him to try and use a derisory and symbolic program to allow 10,000 refugees into the United States in order to posture as more caring than those evil Jacksonian rednecks out in the benighted sticks is one of the most cynical, cold-blooded, and nastily divisive moves an American President has made in a long time.
Finally, Obama trotted out the tired “nothing to do with Islam” trope. “And so to the degree that anyone would equate the terrible actions that took place in Paris with the views of Islam,” he scolded, “those kinds of stereotypes are counterproductive. They’re wrong. They will lead, I think, to greater recruitment into terrorist organizations over time if this becomes somehow defined as a Muslim problem as opposed to a terrorist problem.”
And please, let’s drop the notion that the jihadists kill us because of our bad behavior, that anything we do in self-defense of our lives and principles and beliefs is a “recruitment tool” for jihadism. The jihadists have agency and act on beliefs sanctified by 14 centuries of religious precept and example, particularly that of Mohammed himself, who said very clearly, “I was ordered to fight all men until they say there is no god but Allah,” a command repeated by Ayatollah Khomeini, Osama bin Laden, and the Fort Hood killer Nidal Malik Hassan.
Obama’s speech in Paris has diminished his stature nearly to the point of invisibility. His arrogance, ignorance, and toxic self-regard have compromised the security of our country and seriously damaged our global prestige. It’s going to be a long 14 months before we can get the chance to change course.